Two Austin teens were among the city’s young filmmakers recently honored for bringing their community to the small screen in a series of short films which they produced.

The West Side youth producers, who live in Austin and East Garfield, are part of Community TV Network, an After School Matters program teaching young people film and television production.

Emmanuel Robinson, 16, a student at ACT Charter School, 4319 W. Washington Blvd., and Ronnie Austin, 17, of East Garfield and a student at Frederick Douglass Academy, 543 N. Waller, produced a short film titled “Manhood” with two other Community TV Network youth participants from the South and Northwest Side.

Derell Bonner, a 17-year-old Austin resident and Prosser Career Academy High School student, created his own separate film, “Chicago Now,” which explores the inequities that exist in Chicago Public Schools between wealthier and disadvantaged school neighborhoods.

The two films were screened at the 11th Annual “Do It Your Damn Self” (DIYDS) National Youth Video and Film Festival in Boston. The festival, which ran from Nov. 17-18, showcased 16 films from more than 100 entries submitted by teens nationwide.

The Chicago youth were among 400 people attending the screening at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Robinson and Austin took part in a Q&A with audience members after the screening of their film.

Their 10-minute documentary, co-produced by Tyrese Harris, 18, of Washington Park and Luiz Chavez, 16, of Logan Square, is about black-male identity in men growing up in low-income neighborhoods. The idea for the documentary grew out of a brainstorming session.

The group wanted to look at how manhood is portrayed in the home and in the media, and how it should be identified based on opinions of esteemed peers.

The youth filmmakers were involved in various aspects of the production, from the film’s conception and creation to its editing. However, Austin had only one complaint with the finished product.

“I wish it had more music,” said Austin, a music lover, who plans to major in music with a minor in film when he attends college.

Derell Bonner’s mother got him involved in filmmaking when she put a video camera in his hand when he was 7 years old.

“I used to make home movies and videos of friends and felt it was something I enjoyed enough to do professionally,” he said.

Bonner, who’s a member of the Chicago Public School’s student advisory council, heard much of the student’s feeling about their schools and the disparities within them while producing his film.

“I sit on the student advisory council with Arne Duncan and I hear a lot of what students are feeling about their schools and the disparities within them,” he said. “In making the film, I interviewed several students from different schools, including Westinghouse and Whitney Young, and asked them about the problems they’ve seen with funding issues and achievement gaps at their school.”

Bonner, who began with CTVN while a freshman at Prosser, said you don’t have to be at the best school to achieve, but that youth must be the best student you can be despite the road blocks.

“We are still in control of our own destiny,” Bonner said. “You don’t have to be at the best school to achieve, but you must be the best student you can be despite your road blocks.”

Community TV Network was founded 32 years ago by Denise Zaccardi, who currently serves at the network’s executive director. She started when video cameras were mostly a luxury, but grew the organization over the years.

“The achievements of these young people demonstrate again how Community TV Network empowers individuals and communities,” said Zaccardi. Both “Manhood” and “Chicago Now” can be seen on by searching for “Community TV Network”. CTVN youth produce

Hard Cover, a weekly cable access television airing Mondays at 5:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m. on Chicago’s Community Access Network Television (CAN TV) Channel 19.

For more information about Community TV Network, call 773/278-8500 or